Last Night's TV: The Hairy Bikers: Mums Know Best/BBC2
The Big C/More4

Rather like Ant and Dec, it's quite hard to tell the Hairy Bikers apart. This doesn't seem to matter. They move as one, enthuse as one, chomp and swallow and gurn as one. The only time they distinguish themselves is when arguing. Pretend arguing, that is. "It's tree-cal," hiccuped one (Si?), holding up a can of Lyle's Golden. "It's sirup, man," boomed the other (Dave?).

They are – in the parlance of their reality-TV equivalents – engaging in one long Bush Tucker Trial, travelling around the country to celebrate home cooking. Last night saw them on a quest for comfort food – "food that makes us feel that little bit better," they said – from the home-made plum crumbles to the nettle puddings and the hand-raised pork pies. Oddly, for a programme called Mums Know Best, they started the whole thing off with Dee's dad's Denby Dale pie.

Dee, we learned, hasn't been entrusted with her family's recipe before. It's nothing too complicated – just a beef casserole, really, with a pastry crust – but it's all in the seasoning. So much so that Dee's dad has a name for it: 6119, like George Harrison's Gretsch. Anyway, off she went to fry off the beef, boil the potatoes and reduce the gravy. The bikers even helped her cut out a little cowshape to crown it. "Not bad for a first attempt," concluded dad, on tasting.

Away from Denby Dale, there were less traditional options on offer. In Blackpool, the beef curry Anjie's mum used to make, at Castle Howard, a posh fish-finger sandwich (salmon rather than Birds Eye). Everything, said the bikers, was "unctuous". It's their word.

The crowning glory – the grand finale of the whole homely quest – was a "comfort food fair", complete with food historian and pineapple upside down cake. Our bikers bounded round, enthusiastically tasting the various concoctions on offer. Nothing was bad. Rather sweetly, each individual mouthful warranted a round of applause. I'm not quite sure of the programme's purpose– what with Britain's Best Dish, Rick Stein's Food Heroes et al – it's hardly the first of its kind, but I did quite like it. Rather like the dishes on offer, it was vaguely comforting. And there are, after all, worse things than that.

Judging from its first two episodes, The Big C isn't quite the taboo-breaker we might have hoped. America's much-vaunted "cancer comedy" has seen the critics divided over matters of taste, and its star – the effervescent Laura Linney – hailed for her performance.

But The Big C isn't really about cancer at all. Yes, the illness features as a (fairly crucial) plot device, but so could a host of other life-changing events. To wit: last week Linney's character, harassed mother Cathy Jamison, discovered that she has terminal melanoma. She doesn't, however, tell anyone about this. Neither does she seek treatment. Instead, she treats the diagnosis as a kind of free pass to start living life as she always should have. Without telling him why, she booted her husband out of the house. She had wasted, she reflected, too many hours closing his cupboards and washing up his glasses. She decided to start teaching her son a few lessons, like, for instance, that if he doesn't tidy his room, she'll give away all his clothes. In short, very little time is spent dealing with the whole cancer side of things. The Big C is a tale about a woman who decides to change her life – live each day as one of her last. It could have been cancer that triggered it, or it could have been another illness. It could, in fact, have been a number of things. The cancer is incidental, lurking in the background. Never discussed, never described, it remains but a bit player.

None of which is to say that The Big C isn't worth watching. Linney is predictably enchanting as our diem-seizing heroine, and Oliver Platt comfortably amusing as her down-at-heel husband. Her son, played by Gabriel Basso, is really quite shockingly horrid, possibly too much so, at times. Why, I found myself wondering, does Jamison put up with his bratishness? And Gabourey Sidibe makes a rather joyous addition as Andrea, an overweight student Cathy is trying to get in shape.

It's this strength of casting that must account, in large part, for the show's success. They bestow on it that easy watchability that the Americans do so well. Beyond that, there's not much to distinguish The Big C from the countless other above-average series around at the moment. The script is unremarkable: lightly amusing but not much more, at times a little saccharine. The concept itself isn't all that novel, and it makes way for a few not-terribly-attractive clichés (the doctor complimenting Jamison on her "awesome rack", the punch line, presumably, being that she's ancient and therefore nigh on incapable of being found attractive). Hopefully, The Big C will start to feature the Big C a little more. In the meantime, there are worse things on television.

Week two of Marchlands, and things have taken a turn for the weird. Or, if you like, the even more weird. All final vestiges of psychological thriller abandoned, we've plunged headlong into full-on ghost story. It's dubious territory, and it comes with a dubious box of tricks – surprises in the mirror, creaking swings, mystery handprints – but you know what? I think like it. Things are genuinely creepy, occasionally quite frightening. Coupled with classy performances and a commendable absence of special effects, it's really rather gripping.;

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain